Kitty Collins, BHS, RRT, a respiratory therapist at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, TX, set her patients’ lung exercises to a unique rhythm through their music therapy program.
As part of the COPD Foundation’s Harmonicas for Health program, the group is now in its fourth year. The program’s group leader has COPD and most of the participants also have COPD; however, anyone with a chronic lung condition is invited to participate as well. The group meets twice a month for an hour each and although it is not done during pulmonary rehab, pulmonary rehab participants are encouraged to come.
“We also welcome those in the community that would like to participate that have chronic lung disease,” Collins said.
According to Collins, participants report less shortness of breath than before they started playing the harmonica.
“There is also the added benefit of the support from others and the joy they get from playing the harmonica,” Collins said. “There is a lot of camaraderie and laughter during their meetings.”
Collins asked participants to share how they’ve benefited from the program. Here’s what they had to say:
- “Playing the harmonica has really helped me be less short of breath and learn to control my breathing.”
- “We have so much fun when we are playing the harmonica and don’t think about our breathing or being short of breath.”
Beyond lung therapy, the harmonica group has taken their show on the road.
“Our group leader has reached out to rehabilitation and nursing homes and the group has performed for residents who have really enjoyed this,” Collins said.
In fact, when AARC Congress was in San Antonio a few years ago, the group attended the National Respiratory Patient Advocacy Summit and performed.
Growing the program
“I would like to see the group continue to grow and also use the program to help raise awareness about COPD and other chronic lung diseases,” Collins said. “People with lung disease need support from each other and want to find something that will improve their breathing.”
For anyone interested in starting their own music therapy program, Collins suggests promoting the program as a way to both gain support and improve breathing, all while having fun.
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